Kansas, a rural state?

How does the population in Kansas compare to the nation and other states?

One of the most-often repeated themes in Kansas is that we are a rural state. Therefore, comparisons of Kansas to other states must be tempered and adjusted by this. It seems to be common knowledge.

Rural populations of the states. Click for larger version.
Rural populations of the states. Click for larger version.
There may be several ways to measure the “ruralness” of a state. One way is the percent of the state’s people that live in rural areas. The U.S. Census Bureau has these statistics. In the chart made from these statistics, Kansas is right in the middle of the states. 25.80 percent of Kansans live in rural areas.

That’s not too far from the country as a whole. For the entire United States, 80.7 percent of the population lives in an urban setting, according to the 2010 census. For Kansas, the figure is 74.2 percent.

Over time, Kansas is becoming more of an urban state, just as are most states and the country as a whole.

Do these numbers mean anything? It’s common for Kansas politicians to emphasize — even exaggerate — whatever connections they may have to a family farm. It’s part of a nostalgic and romanticized view of Kansas, the Kansas of Home on the Range. We are the “Wheat State” and “Breadbasket of the World,” and “One Kansas farmer feeds 128 people (plus you).”

So while Kansas is in the middle in the ranking of percent of population living in rural areas, our state’s politicians continue to play the “rural card.”

Voters and policymakers should keep this in mind, although politicians may not.

Click here to view and use an interactive visualization of states and urban population.

Percent urban population by state, with Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.
Percent urban population by state, with Kansas emphasized. Click for larger.

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